Monday, April 15, 2013
Wet Land and People Not Dry Behind the Ears
It was a disappointing weekend. The weather was fine, warm and sunny, telling us that Spring is almost here. The birds are learning again that they can have a better balanced diet if they feed beyond the feeders we have on the decks; that worms and grubs and other tiny live things are tasty and nutritious. It is the time when the nuts are out, so to speak. Which is what makes it somewhat disappointing. A few of them have fallen on our fields.
This time of year, after the winter rains and snows have mostly soaked into the ground, our north field remains somewhat like a rice paddy. The underground springs suddenly remember that they can penetrate from below, and much of that field is under water, soft and delicate. So much so that the natural fertilizer we spread can’t be put out yet. It’s always a race between the field being dry enough to work, and the hay growing too tall to get over it.
That’s what caused us such disappointment this weekend. I have a neighbor (whom I’ve never met), who has a nice weekend retreat on a piece of land I sold some years ago. I’ve seen the owner once, from the field when he stopped to unlock his gate. We waved but didn’t speak. That was a year or so ago. Late on Saturday, we became aware of what sounded like a pickup truck on the road that cuts through our land and goes on up the valley. After an hour or so of hearing the same noise, I went out on the deck that faces the fields, to see if the traffic was simply lookers coming to check out the deer that gather in the fields after sunset. It wasn’t near dark yet, and imagine my surprise when I stood on the deck and heard and saw someone on a 4-wheeler (the most ubiquitous toy you find in the country) in our field, riding around our pond, yelling and having a good ole’ time. By the time I put on boots, walked to where the Bronco was parked, pulled it out and drove down to the field, the perps were away, but telltale tire tracks crossed the road from our field to the driveway of my un-met neighbor. The gate was open, so I drove on up to the cabin.
I spoke to a young woman (rather reserved I thought, until she shared with me that I didn’t have to speak to her in the manner I had chosen because “We’re college educated,”). She seemed to think that whatever they might have done, they did in the innocent belief that the field was open to anyone who wanted to use it. I explained that despite her college education, she and her friends had caused considerable damage to my hay field and possibly the pond. I was assured that any costs would be met to restore the field. Well, that’s not so easy to do, and I have no idea of the cost, but I think it might be several thousand dollars. I left after assuring her that the next visitor would be from the sheriff’s office.
This morning, about 7:30, Teddy Dog and I went down to the field to look at and photograph the damage. There, around the pond, were wheel tracks deep into the land atop the dam, in the field in front of the dam, and about mid-way up the field, even more, deeper tracks. Obviously these college educated elite had not learned that when you drive a wheel through water over soil, it makes a nice little channel. Or maybe that’s what they wanted to see and study. But they must also have missed the classes on civility and civic responsibility, as well as how to live with neighbors, the meaning of trespass, and the fact that there are laws against it.
The field can be fixed (at some expense). That isn’t what bothers me. What disturbs me, what takes away from the enjoyment of the blossoming Spring, is what is left out. That people (of any age beyond puberty) can wantonly destroy what is obviously a fragile piece of land just for the hell of it, and not their own land at that. What is the pleasure factor here? Cheating a landowner? Proving you can drive in a circle and splash a lot of mud here and there? What has happened to our civilization when young adults are so cavalier about property and respect and appreciation of nature? Why would you want to come to the country for the weekend if you don’t like what it is all about? Yes, I’m disappointed that I will have a smaller hay crop this year, and yes I am saddened that the fragile ecology of that acreage is threatened. All of those things bother me. But there is so much more here: disregard for the health of the land, disdain for property rights, delight in destruction. I don’t want to put up fences and gates and more signs that warn against trespass, but at the same time, I don’t want to have to live with the consequences of someone else’s disregard for what is right and civilized behavior.
Life is too short to spend it angry.